We’re big fans of Bar Agricole, Thad Vogler’s great restaurant with a cocktail program to match. So it was with great anticipation when we nabbed a reservation at his newest spot, Trou Normand, located in the historic art deco building at 140 New Montgomery (which also houses Yelp headquarters). It is named after traditional French “palate cleansers” of brandies, in this case Calvados, Cognac or Armagnac. Also used as digestifs, trou literally translates to “hole” — the shot prepares the imbiber for the next course, or helps him digest the meal.
The dozen or so seats at the bar are always packed, and it’s a hard reservation to get, but we got in with about a month’s notice. There is seating for about 60: a large communal table in one room is surrounded by a perimeter counter with stools, plus five smaller communal booths near the bar in the front room. We shared a booth with another party of two, but they did a pretty good job of creating a separation with strategically placed water bottles.
Salvatore Cracco was brought in as the executive chef, a promotion from his previous position as the butcher at Bar Agricole. He has extensive experience with and specializes in bringing in whole animals, butchering them onsite and utilizing the entire beast. His dinner menu is anchored by Charcuterie and Salumi, each offering about a dozen different variations. Starters, Mains and Sides with about six selections in each category completes the menu. There are two desserts on offer, but here the cocktails are the true desserts.
The beverage menu is very interesting, with 16 cocktails (mostly brandy-based), some wines by the glass (they were still working on a bottle list at the time we dined) and a few selections of beer and ciders. Even with reservations, we still had about a half hour wait to get a seated and also the bartender’s attention. At last we ordered a Sleepyhead (armagnac, ginger, mint, cava) and a Dempsey (gin, calvados, grenadine, absinthe). As expected, the drinks were great and perfectly balanced:
With such a big emphasis on the cured and spreadable meats program, the chef’s selection of Charcuterie Plate is a must. Offered in small or large plates, the richness contained by the unctuously fatty-in-a-good-way cuts of the small was more than enough for two people. Our platter that evening contained two different pork pâtés (mulberry and green garlic/thyme), ciccioli and pancetta. All house-cured, the salumi pieces arrived at the table with the pleasant “oily sheen” from the fat. This is definitely one of the best charcuterie/salumi platters on offer in the City right now:
The cured meats platter arrived with some crust pan epi and high quality butter:
We also had to have the Fried Headcheese made with confit pork jowl. The whole grain mustard sauce served with this offaly great dish was really tasty:
Our knowledgeable server noted the kinks regarding drink orders, so we stuck with a couple of glasses of red wine and a Stiegl beer (we were thirsty after all that fatty goodness):
Next we chose the evening’s special of Pork Meatballs along with a bowl of the creamy polenta. The delicious meatballs were substantial yet light and airy, easily crumbling with a fork:
Serving the hungry crowds of the Financial District, Trou Normand is open from 8 am through midnight weekdays, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, and for dinner service only on weekends. We’re guessing that the menu will change frequently to reflect the whole animal butchery as other cured meats finish their “gestation” process. Thad Vogler has another winner — one that we would gladly frequent if only they had room for us.